Wednesday, January 29th
The Chastain Farms
We woke up to the entire state of Alabama being closed.
None of the Old Men were in the coffee shop. The commercial coffee pot sat cold and dry. There was literally no traffic on the highway out front. There was no sign of any of the farmers.
It was beautiful and still and white and humanless; a winter wonderland post-apocalypse movie set.
Kristin and I, cold-hardened Northern veterans of all things icy and cold, left the SoCal WWOOFers indoors and ventured out to feed the animals and chop open their ice-plated water supplies.
We threw away the grody broken pile of boombox that had sat on a prominent shelf in the Coffee Shop for years, gathering a thick layer of dirty dust and cobwebs.
It was replaced with some things lying around in the Milk Barn/Kitchen/Bunkhouse/Coffee Shop building: a couple of gorgeous, smooth old aluminum milk pitchers flanking an antique geared machine that no one understood.
Eventually, Nathan & Jimmy arrived in their 4 wheel drive vehicles. Nathan had gone in the ditch once already, but gotten out without too much trouble. Schools were closed again. People were trapped all over the place. The roads were not passable without great caution, luck, and ability to plan a route that avoided icy, impassable uphills.
The 50 day-old chicks were supposed to arrive today – this is what we had built the brooder box for, prepared the building, bought bedding, etc. But the USPS was closed. The company that had shipped them had no idea where they were – the whole shipment was presumed stuck on some icy highway and deceased. We felt bad for the chickens, and disappointed that we would not get to see our work on the brooder in action with piles of baby chickens.
Then we got to work on a little project to stop the loss of most of the woodstove’s heat, through the huge vent fan built into the ceiling. It needed to be removable, so they could take it down in the summer, when the vent was a lifesaver in the combined heat of canning and summertime. We fashioned a simple wood panel, held in place with wood blocks that were snug but spun easily thanks to some large washers on both sides.
In the afternoon, Nathan & Rachel’s two children came over. They were excited by the unprecedented snowfall, but not sure how to work with it. I taught them how to pack snowballs – how to choose good snow, how to pack with cupped hands.
I also told them to wear gloves to do so. The boy didn’t listen no matter how many times I repeated that part. He cried a bit when his hands started to thaw out and that special tingly-skin pain kicked in … but then went back to packing snowballs without gloves, and running inside to thaw his hands in a big bowl of hot water every few minutes.
When he ambushed his sister, I explained to her the fine art of sneaky snow revenge – how to smuggle some snow behind her unsuspecting victim, and then dump it down the back of his shirt. She tested it out on her brother, and then graduated to snow-prising her Dad.
We cut up some downed trees and limbs for firewood, allowing Nathan to hone his tree-lassoing skills, in our effort to safely pull down a huge dead branch that was menacing the fence of Blossom (the old horse).
Then we hunkered down, burned firewood, hung out, and talked, with our voices slipping into occasional acquired Alabaman drawls, similar to by distinct from the accent we briefly picked up while in Mississippi …